Brexit 1) May to “pin her future” on breaking up existing EU trade relationship

Theresa May plans to call Brexit rebels’ bluff with a back-me-or-sack-me challenge. The PM is ready to pin her future on breaking all of our existing trade ties with the EU. Senior allies want her to make the MPs’ Customs Union vote an issue of confidence in her leadership. It would force Tory Europhiles to do it her way — or sink the Government and face certain election defeat. She yesterday paved the way for a last stand, declaring: “Decisions we make now will shape this country for a generation. “If we get them right, Brexit will be the beginning of a bright new chapter.” Cabinet hardliners reckon Tory Remainers would back down from voting to stay in a Customs Union if it risked making Jeremy Corbyn PM. Mrs May is being urged to fight to the death to implement the plan decided at Thursday’s eight-hour Cabinet Chequers summit. – Sun on Sunday

  • It seems she “secured approval for a bespoke deal” at the Cabinet away day – Sunday Express
  • Yes, “agreement” was reached, but Boris “considered quitting” at one point – Mail on Sunday

>Today: ToryDiary: Having confidence in leaving the Customs Union

Brexit 2) Shipman: Here’s the plan Robbins outlined for her at Chequers

“…It is a measure of May’s enigmatic nature that only one of her ministers — David Davis, the Brexit secretary — had any idea what Robbins was about to say. “She does treat everybody equally,” one cabinet minister joked. “She keeps everybody in the dark.” Robbins mapped out a four-point plan. When Britain begins trade talks with the EU in March the UK will: ● Demand mutual recognition of standards for goods traded between the UK and the EU ● Make a public commitment that British standards will remain as high as those of the EU  ● Pledge to keep rules and regulations “substantially similar” ● Insist upon the creation of a dispute mechanism to oversee areas where the UK wants to diverge from EU regulations — and that the European Court of Justice would have no role in it. One of those present explained: “We are going to be associate members of various agencies on things like aviation, chemicals and pharmaceuticals and then we get [EU] market access and don’t need to have our products checked in more than one jurisdiction. We can decide at any time, in the full knowledge that there are consequences, that we don’t want to be regulated in this way.”” – The Sunday Times 

  • It all ended in “good cheer” – James Forsyth, Sun on Sunday
  • The “minimal briefings” suggest peace and harmony ensued – Janet Daley, Sunday Telegraph
  • But we won’t really know what the cabinet agreed until March – Adam Boulton, The Sunday Times
  • I’m not convinced they came to a “sustainable agreement” – Andrew Rawnsley, Observer
  • Who was who at the Brexit away day – Tim Stanley, Sunday Telegraph
  • We should expect more of these meetings. There’s still lots to be done – Macer Hall, Sunday Express
  • It’s all about control – Dan Hodges, Mail on Sunday


Brexit 3) She’s expected to talk of “ambitious managed economic divergence” in her speech next week

“Theresa May is set to lay out her vision for the future relationship with the EU next Friday where she is expected to say she wants “ambitious managed economic divergence” from the Brussels bloc after Britain leaves. It means that an attempt by the Treasury to keep Britain tied to EU rules has failed after senior ministers thrashed out the government’s vision in an eight hour summit at the Prime Minister’ official country residence Chequers. The Cabinet Brexit sub-committee agreed on a policy which will see Britain matching EU rules in certain industries while having “the right to choose to diverge” from them in others, health secretary Jeremy Hunt revealed.” – Sunday Express

Brexit 4) But she’s been “warned about rebel risk” over customs union

“Three cabinet ministers warned Theresa May during private talks on Brexit at her Chequers retreat last week that her government could collapse this year. Julian Smith, the chief whip, told May there was a “very real threat” that Labour could unite with 15 to 20 Tory rebels to defeat the government on their decision to rule out membership of a customs union. Senior ministers say there are discussions about whether the prime minister should turn the vote into a confidence issue, threatening a general election if Tory MPs vote with the opposition.” – The Sunday Times

  • Rebels want to “force an immediate debate” on the issue – Mail on Sunday

Brexit 5) Lidington: The UK internal market “underpins our nation’s existence”

“There were many reasons why people voted to leave the European Union in 2016. But my impression, having campaigned to remain in the EU, is that above all else, people throughout this country sought to regain a feeling of control – not just of our laws, but over our lives, too, and the people we elect into office. The referendum result expressed a rejection of EU membership, and also a sense of pent-up frustration that the political system had become too remote from the people that it exists to serve. That is why, as we leave the EU, we should work for a future that fosters wealth creation, opportunity and innovation in every part of the United Kingdom, and that strengthens the sense of belonging and solidarity in all communities, building a country that works for everyone.” – Sunday Telegraph 

Brexit 6 ) Field: Labour needs to stop “mucking about” with leaving, or we risk our chances of taking power

“… Millions of Labour voters, living in the towns and villages which form our heartlands, supported Brexit in the referendum. It was one of the most striking themes of referendum night to see safe Labour seat after safe Labour seat opting for Leave with thumping majorities. Clearly voters in those parts of the country have, among other things, had enough of the open-borders policy and its impact on their living standards over the past decade. Yet while the bulk of Tory MPs have voted consistently to get on with implementing the referendum result, barely half a dozen of us on the ­Labour benches have done so. The potential consequences of such half-hearted support for Brexit from the rest of the Parliamentary Labour Party were made painfully clear during last year’s General Election defeat.” – The Sun on Sunday

More Brexit

  • Labour figures call on Corbyn to rethink single-market position… – Observer
  • …While his party’s eurosceptics say he’s “playing with fire” over customs-union position – Sunday Telegraph
  • Badenoch and others called to whips after signing ERG letter – Sunday Telegraph
  • Welby’s book offers “bleak assessment” of Britain – Mail on Sunday
  • EU expert talks of British benefits from post-Brexit “smart borders” – Sunday Telegraph
  • MPs may have to sit over summer to deal with Brexit legislation – The Sunday Times
  • Farage claims Trump fears he won’t be able to sign deal with UK before next US election – Sunday Telegraph
  • Is Trump going to appoint a special envoy to NI? – Belfast Telegraph

Bradley apologises to Corbyn over “cold-war spy” tweet

“A vice-chairman of the Conservative party has apologised “unreservedly” to Jeremy Corbyn over a tweet claiming that he had links with Cold War spies. Ben Bradley, the Tory MP for Mansfield, tweeted out to his 5,000 followers that the Labour leader had “sold British secrets to communist spies” amid the furore over Mr Corbyn’s contact with a Czechoslovakian spy masquerading as a diplomat in the 1980s. Lawyers acting for Mr Corbyn contacted Mr Bradley, threatening court action unless he issued an apology for what they called a defamatory statement.” – Sunday Times

  • And will make “substantial donation” split between a food bank and a homeless charity – Observer
  • May is “urged to sack him” – Mail on Sunday


  • What we know from back then – Jamie Doward, Observer
  • And some more – Peter Hitchens, Mail on Sunday
  • I’ve been astounded by the reaction to the story – Richard and Judy, Sunday Express

More Labour

  • Livingstone “likely to avoid further action” over alleged antisemitism – Observer
  • Corbyn aide “gloats” over McNicol’s departure – The Sunday Times
  • Who might take over from McNicol? – Sunday Express

Hinds to “take tougher line” on illegal schools

“The education secretary, Damian Hinds, is to crack down on illegal schools amid growing concern that children are at risk of being radicalised, trafficked, abused — or simply growing up ignorant. Insiders at the Department for Education said Hinds was determined to take a tougher line on illegal schools and out-of-hours tuition centres than his predecessor, Justine Greening. The hardening stance comes as new figures reveal the number of unregistered tuition centres is on the rise. The schools inspectorate, Ofsted, has found 359 suspected illegal schools in the past two years, less than 200 of which it has been able to inspect.” – The Sunday Times

More Conservatives

  • Party hiring professional tweeters – Sunday Telegraph 
  • Scottish Conservative shadow health secretary “accuses Scottish government of mismanaging health service” – Sunday Herald

>Yesterday: Terry Barnes in Comment: How Australia’s answer to Boris may have just sunk the centre-right

Cohen: Victims of free-speech issues should have access to affordable legal recourse

“In the 21st century, everyone can be a journalist and everyone can be a victim of journalism. Debates about free speech are fierce because millions now feel the urgency of questions that were once rarely aired outside publishers’ offices. All it takes is a mobile phone and a social media account for a citizen to become a serious commentator explaining the misconceptions of Brexit, an investigative journalist showing how power corrupts, a jeering tabloid thug on Twitter or a pornographer humiliating his ex with revenge porn. In a country governed by the rule of law, the explosion in disputes ought to be the business of the courts. Yet our courts still operate as if the web had never been invented.” – Observer

News in Brief

  • People have stopped saying May doesn’t want to go on – John Rentoul, Independent on Sunday
  • The real reason the Corbyn “spy” allegations should worry us – Chris Mullin, LRB
  • Why property taxation is in “dire need” of reform – Oliver Wiseman, CapX
  • Universities: from Jo’ Newman to Jo Johnson – Amol Rajan, New Statesman
  • Between nature and technology – Henry Mance, Aeon
  • Debussy the capitalist? – Philip Hensher, Spectator